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The one really big piece of input I have

  • To: atrt-public-input@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: The one really big piece of input I have
  • From: Kieren McCarthy <kierenmccarthy@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2010 14:10:46 -0700

Hello all,

I have been spending a lot of time recently following and contributing to
these discussions surrounding ICANN and its accountability and transparency.

I've also been giving it a lot of thought, and came up with one really big
piece of input that I think stands above all else. So I decided to write a
separate email about it.

The ATRT will gather alot of input, have a large number of discussions, go
back and forth and eventually distill it all down to a few conclusions and

But the one thing that this whole review is unlikely to consider
sufficiently - and so more or less guarantee that it becomes just another
report piled up in the ICANN's offices - is: what then?

* What mechanism is there to ensure that the recommendations and conclusions
are acted upon? (I can tell you now: there isn't one)
* Who will review if they have been acted upon? (Will the ATRT disband after
its report?)
* Who will review that they have introduced in the right way? (Who maintains
independent knowledge of the process?)
* Most crucially, what happens is they *aren't* acted on? What mechanism
exists that obliges ICANN's staff and Board to act? And what is the direct
response that they receive if they simply don't?

This is not the first time that a group of people have spent many hours
reviewing and thinking about improving ICANN in terms of accountability and
transparency. The One World Trust, the A&T Frameworks and Principles, the
Improving Institutional Confidence consultation, and the ACSO joint meetings
are just four that jump to mind.

I have personally spent many hours of my life doing what the ATRT team is
doing now - gathering input, reviewing it, discussing it, drawing up
suggestions, putting those suggestions our for review, making changes in
response and - finally - producing a finished document.

And yet the ATRT team was set up because there remains an accountability
gap. Many of the conclusions and recommendations in previous reports remain
untouched. What will make the ATRT any different?

It may help to review why the previous work has not been fully, or even
partly, implemented. I'd put forward three main reasons:

1. ICANN staff and Board have a strong culture of not changing (and of
finding reasons why report conclusions are not applicable)

2. ICANN staff and Board are exceptionally busy - all the time. Making
structural or procedural changes is difficult and time-consuming. And one
thing the organization never has is time. There is always a deadline just
days away. Some words in a finished report will always be a lower priority
than people who are inquiring daily about progress in other areas.

3. There is no cost to *not* making changes. When a report first comes out
there is pressure to act on it, but very soon the daily workload means that
those changes get lost. Meetings are dropped, processes revert to the
well-known default, and people soon realize that they aren't held to task
for *not* making progress. Both staff and community have short memories and
the recommendations and conclusions of old documents are quickly forgotten.

So if the ATRT wishes to have a real impact on improving ICANN's
accountability and transparency, it needs to spend a significant proportion
of its time figuring out how to make sure that its recommendations (and
those of previous reports) are actually implemented. Otherwise the work is
does do will largely be in vain.

Every report produced in this area has written into it the requirement for
an annual review (OneWorldTrust is the best example). I have yet to see one
of these reviews carried out: partly because people forget, and partly
because the team that wrote the report has either disbanded or no longer has
the right to involve itself.

There are many different approaches that the ATRT could take to ensure that
its work is followed up, but one of the most obvious is to have multiple
check-points *after* the report is provided, and to have several in the
first year in order to maintain momentum on changes. And for that to happen
the ATRT, or some representative part of it, needs to remain in place in
order to come back and check on progress - on a timetable that it decides.

I hope this broader, crucial point makes sense to the team. As ever, I am
happy to talk in greater depth if you want.


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